India ‘A’ men make the right moves

Published : Jan 21, 2010 00:00 IST

The five-member, all-Grandmaster India ‘A’ team came up with an all-win record. S. Sabanayakan reports.

India ‘A’ men turned in a fine show in the 16th Asian Team Chess championship in Kolkata with an all-win record. The five-member, all-Grandmaster team brooked no challenge from nine other participants including the India ‘B’ side.

But the India ‘A’ women’s side, which began as the favourite, lost its way midway through the tournament and finished second best to Vietnam.

In skipper Krishnan SASIKIRAN, the India ‘A’ men had the highest rated GM in the tournament. GM P. Harikrishna was on the top board, the skipper on the second board, GM Surya Sekhar Ganguly on the third and GM Parimarjan Negi on the fourth with GM Deepan Chakkravarthy as the reserve.

Within a couple of rounds it was clear that Harikrishna was not at his best. This meant that the others had to take an extra load and pressure. That the team had three solid players proved very handy. All three came out with flying colours, winning the Board gold medals. “Yeah, Harikrishna was not in best form,” admitted Sasikiran, after his team sewed up the title with a round to spare.

The absence of China, the Philippines and a few other countries did devalue the tournament. “Yes, the absence of defending champion China in a way weakened the tournament. But then we had to beat good teams like Vietnam and Iran to get the title,” pointed out Sasikiran.

On the eve of the tournament, the Indian captain had predicted that India ‘B’ would be the surprise packet of the meet. But when the Indian seniors annihilated the juniors, this prediction came to nought. India ‘A’ also cruised past the two challengers, Vietnam and Iran, with some measure of comfort to end with 14 points. Vietnam men finished second with 11 points. Iran too logged 11 points, but a better tie-break score favoured Vietnam for the silver medal.

Surprisingly, India ‘B’, captained by S. Satyapragyan, and having talented players like B. Adhiban, R. R. Laxman, Deep Sengupta and Himanshu Sharma, ended fifth with eight points. Indonesia and Bangladesh too were on eight points, but a better tie-break score placed Indonesia fourth followed by the other two.

India ‘B’ had a fine opportunity to finish higher but had the tough task of beating Iran in the final round. National champion Adhiban on the top board and Sengupta on the third board lost to give the tie to Iran.

The rest of the teams just made up the numbers. Singapore, Yemen, Sri Lanka and Nepal ought to have gained in experience though they finished at the bottom of the league table.

The biggest shock in the women’s section was the defeat of India ‘A’ against India ‘B’ in the fourth round. This sent all calculations haywire. In a clash of the top two sides, Bhakti Kulkarni, a 17-year-old Class 12 student, played a superb game on the fourth board to beat WGM Kruttika Nadig and help her team come back into the championship.

India ‘A’, captained by D. Harika, had some fine players in Eesha Karavade, Tania Sachdev, Soumya Swaminathan and Kruttika. The loss meant that the senior side could not catch up with leaders Vietnam, which ultimately took the team honours.

At the fag end, India ‘B,’ on nine points, needed a victory in the final round against Iran, on seven points, but crumbled under pressure to lose 1-3. The team, comprising Mary Ann Gomes, Nisha Mohota, Padmini Rout, Bhakti Kulkarni and Nimmy A.G., not only allowed India ‘A’ to pick up the silver medal, but also gave Iran the bronze on a better tie-break score.

Apart from the team medals, K. Sasikiran (second board), S. S. Ganguly (third board) and Parimarjan Negi (fourth board) won the individual board gold medals. The top board gold went to Le Quang Liem of Vietnam, while his compatriot Nguyen Anh Dung took the fifth board gold.

D. Harika was the lone gold medal winner in the women’s section on the top board. Iran’s Shadi Paridar (second board), Nguyen Thi Thanh An (third board), Nguyen Thi Mai Hung (fourth board) and Hoang Thi Nhu Y (fifth board), the last three from Vietnam, won the other gold medals.

The championship, organised by the Dibyendu Barua Chess Academy and supported by Tata Steel and All Sport, was conducted well at the historic Town Hall. Former India Test players, Madan Lal Sharma and Ashok Malhotra, among others graced the closing ceremony.

Final standings: Men: 1. India ‘A’, 2. Vietnam, 3. Iran, 4. Indonesia, 5. India ‘B’, 6. Bangladesh, 7. Singapore, 8. Sri Lanka, 9. Yemen, 10. Nepal.

Women: 1. Vietnam, 2. India ‘A’, 3. Iran, 4. India ‘B’, 5. Singapore, 6. Bangladesh, 7. Indonesia, 8. Sri Lanka, 9. Nepal.

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